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Football in the poorhouse

THE GODFATHER of Philippine football says that contrary to popular perception, the federation that runs the sport in the country is in the poorhouse not the penthouse.

Dan Palami is not saying that the Philippine Football Federation, the mother unit of the Azkals national team is broke. After all, soccer’s local governing body is able to cover its regular overheads and expenses.

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But when it comes to finances, it is truly a poor cousin to the more affluent national sports associations like the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines.

“Sadly, the resources available in the federation right now are just enough for the grassroots program, women’s coaches, referees and the general administration of the (front) office,” he says.

PFF president Mariano Araneta explains that there are subsidies from the International Football Federation or Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation.

However, restrictions are attached to these grants that include a yearly Fifa endowment of $250,000 (about P11.2 million) to be used only for administration and football development and not for the national team.

Araneta also said whenever the PFF dips its hand into the Fifa pot, it has to be tied to a specific purpose because the money is carefully audited.

Despite the positive impact of the Azkals on young players and the resurgence of soccer as a sport in the Philippines, several potential corporate sponsors are on a holding pattern before fully committing resources.

According to Palami, money from current business sponsors account for maybe 20 percent of team costs.

And with the PFF’s coffers not exactly swelling and assistance from more commercial backers still forthcoming, the Azkals team manager is batting for the infusion of more funds.

He is calling for bigger goals under the fund raising effort “Small Change, Big Change.”

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Launched not too long ago, the campaign counts on the team’s 12th man—the fans—to manifest their groundswell of support not through emotion, but in pesos and centavos.

The Azkals Foundation led by Palami, who has bankrolled the team with his own money, and the Puregold supermarket chain are spearheading the drive.

It features donation cans placed strategically in commercial establishments and stores where Azkals supporters can donate their loose change for the team.

Palami encourages fans to chip in.

“Getting the fans involved via their spare change will give them a sense of ownership of the team, knowing that they have somehow made a tangible contribution,” he says. “I think this will make them even more passionate [for the team].”

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Now is as good a time as any to help contribute to the war chest of the Azkals, who began their World Cup qualifying quest with wins over Bahrain and Yemen.

Stiffer tests lie ahead in September when they face Uzbekistan and North Korea as the country’s other dream team sets its sights on making it to the third round of qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

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TAGS: Azkals, Fifa, Football, PFF
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